Australia’s Alien Environment Fuels Firestorms

Firefighters tackle a grass fire in New South Wales, Australia, on January 7. Image via National Geographic

A recent report from friends who suffered terrible losses of buildings, fences, pasture and cattle in the Coonabarabran fire commenced with the ominous and oft-repeated message: “a raging fire came out of the National Park straight for us”.

There is only one way to limit fire damage – reduce the fuel available.

Fuel load can be reduced in three ways – by grazing animals, by planned small “cool” fires, or by mechanical reduction with slashers, mulchers or dozers.

Australia’s grassland landscape was created and managed by generations of Aborigines who were masters at using man’s most useful tool – fire. Every explorer from Abel Tasman (1642) and Captain Cook (1770) onwards noted the smoke in the sky and the burnt trees whenever they landed. This burning created the open grassland landscapes that dominated pre-European Australia. Aborigines lit fires continually, so their small patchwork fires caused no permanent damage to the environment and created and maintained the healthy grasslands on which many animals and Aborigines depended.

Misguided tree lovers and green politicians have locked the gates on ever-increasing areas of land for trees, parks, heritage, wilderness, habitat, weekend retreats, carbon sequestration etc. Never before on this ancient continent has anyone tried to ban land use or limit bush fires on certain land. The short-sighted policy of surrounding their massive land-banks with fences, locked gates and fire bans has created a new alien environment in Australia. They have created tinder boxes where the growth of woody weeds and the accumulation of dead vegetation in eucalypt re-growth create the perfect environment for fierce fires. Once ignited by lightning, carelessness or arson, the inevitable fire-storms incinerate the park trees and wildlife, and then invade the unfortunate neighbouring properties.

Many of today’s locked-up areas were created to sequester carbon to fulfil Kyoto obligations. Who pays the carbon tax on the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere by wild fires?

The green bureaucracies and politicians are clearly mis-managing their huge land-bank. Aborigines and graziers did a far better job. There should be a moratorium on locking up any more land and a return to sustainable management for existing land holdings.

Viv Forbes,

Rosewood Qld Australia

forbes@carbon-sense.com

I am happy for my email address to be published.

Advertisements

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Michael D Smith

This is simple, intelligent, very workable and is in conformity with nature. Therefore it has virtually zero chance of being adopted by a government. There is no power or profit potential.

Camburn

I feel sorry for Australia. A once vibrant nation is succumbing to the Carbon Madness.
Industry leaving, wild fires burning.
Pretty soon it will be only a hollow shell.

G. Karst

Unintended consequences. It is the bane of all good intentions. GK

TomRude

Brilliant!

Goode 'nuff

Well, it’s just like the alien environment of Kalifornia. Wet years grow the vegetation and dry years burn it off. Houses are not located in the clear lands, rather more likely where the vegetation is thickest. The entire USA is about like that.
Trees should be along to 100 ft off the highways to block the wind and act as a natural snow fence also. Not to mention sopping up pollutants. Then we’ll have less tragic traffic accidents and pileups. But everyone wants to see the scenery. No common sense.

As an Aussie who has lived in the bush for years – without a house, without electricity on tap, without piped water and without sewage – I know what “real” bush living means. As an Aussie who currently lives on the edge of a small country town, and is about to move back into the bush and off the grid (no electricity, gen-set needed) to be back “in amongst the gum trees”, I totally agree with what’s said here. Some years ago it was the law to put in fire breaks. If you couldn’t slash it, you burnt it in a controlled manner. Now it’s the opposite – you’re not allowed to touch anything.
We currently have the worst government Australia has ever seen and I can’t wait for November when we can vote the B**** out!

Steve

Another excellent article on Quadrant with a great film about these damn destructive environmentalists actions: http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2013/01/the-fires-the-greens-make-us-have

Dr T G Watkins

Good sense as always, Viv.
When will they ever learn.
I think the urban chattering classes in Aus. are even worse than the UK ruling elite – maybe not.

corio37

And the same increasing CO2 levels which are boosting farm productivity across the world are also increasing the growth rates of burnable bushland and grassland.

SEAN C

Sorry, The Greens Know far better the Aborigines. The Greens are so Clever? Sarc off

As a retired fire fighter and fire officer who had to deal with wiildfires in South Africa which has similar vegetation, plus the euchalypts imported in the 19th Century to ‘stabilise’ dune fields, I can say that the above article hits the nail on the head squarely. I have visited Australia a number of times, twice during the bushfire seasons (last in 2000 when I spent Christmas and Boxing Day doing what I could to help the NSW Rural Service teams) and the real problem is the ‘Green’ bans on clearing scrub and reducing the fire load.
Unfortunately it will take a fire running out of control into a large town and destroying it and several hundred lives for the Greens and their allies to get kicked into touch and these stupid, bigoted and frankly dangerous policies to be reversed. In the meantime, you can expect to see the current scenes being repeated roughly every five years.

Worth noting that Australian Aboriginal people, in the main, detest Envrionmentalists and Greeens because of their urge to prohibit traditional activities such as hunting and fishing.
Also worth noting that the only reason there’s anything burning at all in some parts is that we’ve had a couple of wet seasons…it’s true, you just can’t please a Greenie!

Darkinbad the Brightdayler

The best laid plans of mice and men oft gang aglay.
They cant stop fires by legislating, nature won’t be signing up to protocols

There is only one way to limit fire damage – reduce the fuel available.
No it isn’t. The other and best way is too keep people and property away from combustible material (and visa versa).
Here in Western Australia, we have the largest bushfires in Australia and they generally don’t make the Perth newspapers, for the simple reason they burn through areas where no one lives, and there is no property to burn except for a few minesites, and the miners, not being there for the scenery, make sure all brush around buildings is cleared.
I recall from the Victorian fires a couple of years ago. In one town, only one house didn’t burn. The owner had cut back all the brush and trees around his house, and had been fined by the council for doing so.
It may sound harsh, but the best solution is to prohibit anyone from getting bushfire insurance or government help after a fire. If you want to live in a bushfire risk area, don’t expect tax-payers to subsidize your lifestyle.
Otherwise, I agree with you.

john robertson

We are here to help you, we are from your government.
The voluntarily nonproductive, know better than the producers, how production shall proceed.
From the actions of the greenies and UN-IPCC inspired acts of economic suicide on the part of our bureaucracies, I suspect these groups cost us more than they are worth.
What value are the trappings of civilization, if they defy common sense and cost you your life and property?
On the bright side, one should remind the nature lovers of history, last time the weather turned cold, the witches got to be the scapegoats. Human nature seems to cycle too.

Echo Alpha

@Phillip Bradley–
I find it odd that while you argue sequestration is a viable method of preventing fatalities and structures burning, the two exampes you give FEATURE PEOPLE REDUCING THE FUEL LOAD IN THE VICINITY OF THEIR STRUCTURES.
Furthermore, you seem to ignore the fact that small fires are less destructive than large infernos- what trees there are survive a small, cool fire, and wildlife has a chance to escape from a localized, slow-moving fire that’s not being driven by the heat and convection-induced wind of a large conflagration.
Not to mention small fires are easier to tend and control so they don’t burn into towns.

Rosco

Eucalyptus oil is highly flammable. Eucalyptus trees emit so much in hot weather that the vapour can clearly be seen in the atmosphere and creates the famous “blue hills” that once everyone in Australia knew about – the vapour causes diffraction in the air.
In the right conditions of heat and low humidity eucalypt tree forests literally explode into uncontrollable firestorms with the fire “topping” through the tree canopy and the undergrowth burning behind a raging fire front.
People who live in that environment might as well throw accelerant around their homes – the effect is the same.
The economic disaster of these fires is the result of living in inappropriate dangerous areas and nothing to do with “manmade climate change”.
We have had hot weather and raging fires long before there was any thought of “manmade climate change”.

Olaf Koenders

“Aborigines lit fires continually, so their small patchwork fires caused no permanent damage to the environment and created and maintained the healthy grasslands on which many animals and Aborigines depended.”
That’s up for debate. Lighting a fire and collecting the escaping food at the other end is more likely what it’s all about. Doing this indiscriminately for 40,000 years or so helps vegetation evolve to survive this.
Notably, the VAST proportion of Australia is covered mostly by grassland and desert anyway. It’s only the wet areas where forests can survive.
Green policies are destroying this country. Firewood isn’t allowed to be collected anymore – we have to wait for a major bushfire to burn it all up for us instead.

mpainter

Carbon madness is a good way to put it. The article is good; it was needed to throw some light on the faulty policies that spawn these catastrophic fires. We see how the government is in the business of sowing firestorms and then blaming CO2. What a racket.

Truthseeker

Philip Bradley says:
January 20, 2013 at 12:43 pm
No it isn’t. The other and best way is too keep people and property away from combustible material (and visa versa).
————————————————————————————————————
That is fine in Western Australia, which has less people than Chicago and more land area than Alaska and Texas added together. It is easy to have people not live where the untended National Parks are. In places like Tasmania and Victoria, there is no such luxury. There over twice as many people in Victoria in a fraction of the land area.
Intelligent management of fuel is the only safe way to manage the bush fire threat, and that includes firebreaks along roads and around dwellings.

Scute

I’m glad this has been mentioned. I read a very informative article on the subject after the deadly Australian fires a few years ago. It made perfect sense. So this time around, I was wondering why they haven’t managed the ‘fuel’ problem in the intervening years.

DirkH

Philip Bradley says:
January 20, 2013 at 12:43 pm
“There is only one way to limit fire damage – reduce the fuel available.
No it isn’t. The other and best way is too keep people and property away from combustible material (and visa versa).
[…]
and the miners, not being there for the scenery, make sure all brush around buildings is cleared.
You noticed that it only took you a few sentences to contradict yourself, right?

@A.D.Everard: We currently have the worst government Australia has ever seen and I can’t wait for November when we can vote the B**** out!
Please don’t make the mistake we did in the USA. The idiocies perpetuated by our government are too numerous to remember. So they get lost in the political debate. The government’s own mistakes become a smoke screen hiding the size and number of problems.
Where did we get the idea that candidates cannot use notes in debates, speeches or interviews and must rely on memory? Romney should have carried around a scuffed, worn corner, dog-eared red 1″ 3-ring binder over-filled with pages cataloging of US government idiocies, corruptive influences, and failed promises. He wouldn’t even have to open it in public, it’s presence would be intimidating. It might be unconventional, but that red note-book could have become iconic of the state of the nation.
In any event, A.D., don’t rely upon memory. Take inventory. Take names. Don’t let most of it be lost in the fog of political war.

rogerknights

Some Australian Greens probably think the fire victims got what they deserved for settling in the wild. Or at least some think that any damage to humans from fire must be tolerated, because it is an intolerable insult to Gaia to try to master and tame it with firelanes, etc. It must be left wild and free.

Mike in Tassie

If we Aussies do not get rid of the Green Menace pretty damn soon the rest of you can reasonably start to refer to the country as Imbecilia.

Viv Forbes is completely correct in his excellent article, The recent fires were nearly all caused by areas of National Parks which had been turned into hazard refuges by the Greens, or by the action of lunatic pyromaniacs who deliberately lit fires to see the effect, or by villains who torched stolen cars in remote areas. The problem was further exacerbated by the inert Federal government who thinks the environment is best managed by total neglect. The Aborigines and the land-owners and graziers knew much better, but now have to bear the brunt of Federal stupidity in creating un-managed new ‘National Parks’ for Eco-nuts to frolic in. Eco-madness has penetrated everywhere and those who try to reduce hazards on their property are frequently prosecuted and persecuted by Local Councils and Authorities for being ‘anti-envirnmental’.
These Eco-nuts live in a parallel universe where CO2 causes catastrophic Global Warming and untended bushland poses ‘no hazard’ to right-thinking Green citizens.

Gail Combs

I think it is about time for Australia to move government headquarters and ALL their bureaucracies into those locked-up wilderness areas and toss away the key. Then let nature take it’s course. Oh, and don’t forget to move all the lobbyists and greenies too.

” … Victorian fires a couple of years ago …”
Resulted in a new Standard for buildings in bushfire-prone areas (AS3959:2009) being introduced, albeit in haste. Primary classifications of risk were expanded to six, and better quantified. The levels are based on heat flux exposure and range from Low to Flame zone – <12.5kW/m2 to > 40 kW/m2. “Low” has no construction requirements. For “Flame zone” there are no construction requirements specified. There is an area between where there is scope for cost-effective mitigation.
Looking forward to getting my copy of “The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia” by Bill Gammage.

pkatt

Same here in the US. We went from no burn rules with forest management to just no burn rules, then we get let it burn rules.. and get…. massive forest fires in Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Montana.. ect.. The forests were healthier when we had a healthy lumber industry but we were told that plastic bags will have less environmental effect then our old sturdy paper bags and that (my fav) trees were not a renewable resource. Meanwhile the wildlife this was supposed to save is still dying off to the point where the gov feels the necessity to help some more. At some point maybe they could figure out that it was their ‘help’ that got us to this point in the first place… just sayin.

MichaelC

The American Indians also caused fires, and for similar reasons. Deer and other game animals can’t eat mature trees. Their prime habitat is at the interface between forest and meadow, where there are lots of shrubs, shoots, saplings, etc. To create this environment, Indians would burn forests.

Peter Miller

A long time ago being green meant that you were genuinely in favour of protecting the environment. Unfortunately, ‘being green’ has morphed into being an unscrupulous industry milking the gullible with twisted logic, or unsubstantiated scare stories, with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth leading the charge. It is difficult to tell the difference between the fund raising strategies of these activist organisations and those of the nutcase religious cults that infest America’s Bible Belt.
As to the bush fires, poorly thought out greenie policies, designed by professional environmental activists, inevitably end up proving the great truth of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

geran

Does Aussie brush fires have anything to do with “shrimp on the barbie”?

Melbourne Resident

Philip Bradley said:
Here in Western Australia, we have the largest bushfires in Australia and they generally don’t make the Perth newspapers, for the simple reason they burn through areas where no one lives, and there is no property to burn except for a few minesites, and the miners, not being there for the scenery, make sure all brush around buildings is cleared.
That’s because WA is huge and empty of people except in the south west, and Perth has also had its share of bad bushfires with lives and property destroyed in the recent past. Your ideas would not work in the south east in Victoria, NSW or for that matter south west WA, because of the population densities and the preference of people to live in leafy suburbs at the interface with the bush.
Philip Bradley also said:
It may sound harsh, but the best solution is to prohibit anyone from getting bushfire insurance or government help after a fire. If you want to live in a bushfire risk area, don’t expect tax-payers to subsidize your lifestyle.
I find this comment particularly offensive and misleading. I live in a bushfire area and was burned out in the 2009 bushfires. I did not expect any support from Taxpayers (and did not get any) and for the record, the biggest contribution to the welfare of those affected came from the ordinary people of Australia who dug deep and donated to the bushfire fund. I was fully insured and am close to finishing rebuilding (this time a much more fire resistant house). You cannot impose such controls on insurance in a free market, unless you want a communist state as well.
Ken Mival – Hazeldene Victoria

Gail Combs

Philip Bradley says:
January 20, 2013 at 12:43 pm
There is only one way to limit fire damage – reduce the fuel available.
No it isn’t. The other and best way is too keep people and property away from combustible material (and visa versa)….
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
And that is the EXACT PLAN. SEE MAP Humans get to live in the green areas. What you can’t see the green areas? Well it is those tiny little dots. The rest is for wild life or limited use.
Here is a close-up of California and Nevada
Those of you in Australia should look and see if there is a plan similar to this for your country. It is called UN Biodiversity Treaty and The Wildlands Project in the USA and it goes hand in hand with Agenda 21. and the Presidents Council on Sustainable Development.
It is actually a return to feudalism with no real ownership of land or businesses and no travel for the serfs. The only difference is you get to choose which mega-corporation you want to work for as long as it is in the town you are stuck in. (Remember no travel allowed) Each town is served by the Food Shed surrounding it (Remember transport is restricted) so the number of persons each city can carry is strictly limited. (Government to control reproduction and immigration)
I really wish this was just a wild conspiracy theory but it is shaping up to be all too real. Bills introduced in the USA to bring this about here. Info on Agenda 21 implementation in USA here

Wall Street Journal – California Declares War on Suburbia Planners want to herd millions into densely packed urban corridors. It won’t save the planet but will make traffic even worse
Metropolitan area governments are adopting plans that would require most new housing to be built at 20 or more to the acre, which is at least five times the traditional quarter acre per house. State and regional planners also seek to radically restructure urban areas, forcing much of the new hyperdensity development into narrowly confined corridors….

When you understand the actual overall plan then the ban on fire starts to make sense. They WANT people to give up and abandon their land. Soon expect the government to refuse to allow rebuilding in the areas that have been burnt out.

tango

over 50 years fighting fires I have never seen a greenie joining a fire brigade in Australia . they spend all there time trying to stop us carrying out hazard reductions right across Australia

Auto
nc

“Aborigines lit fires continually, so their small patchwork fires caused no permanent damage to the environment and created and maintained the healthy grasslands on which many animals and Aborigines depended.”
Actually there is debate on this subject about the effect on Australian fauna before and after Aborigines arrival. “The role of the Aboriginal people in causing the extinction of fauna before European settlement has been much debated”. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/43654/Australia/45008/Animal-life

Auto

Dr T G Watkins says:
January 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm
Good sense as always, Viv.
When will they ever learn.
I think the urban chattering classes in Aus. are even worse than the UK ruling elite – maybe not.
=====
Goodness – if they can even be mentioned in the same breath as our ‘useful idiots’ and ‘bon-pensants’ (not all called Slingo of the Met) – then Australia, too, has problems.
Oh, and look out for the formation and reinforcement of a client-electorate.
Our unlamented Premier, Brown – ‘The Traitor who Trashed a Trillion’ some call him – did that.
Might the delightful, fragrant Julia try the same, bribing with other people’s money?

Baa Humbug

Common sense as usual from Viv Forbes but I must agree with Olaf ( Olaf Koenders says:
January 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm)
Aboriginals didn’t ‘manage’ the bush, in fact they pretty much didn’t manage anything.
What they did was use fire to catch ready cooked food (lizards etc) and have smouldering logs ever present so that they can easily light new fires every morning. Who the heck wants to rub two sticks together every time one needs to build a fire?
This action changed the Australian landscape for ever and not for the better. Only fire hardy vegetation survived this onslaught and the continent dried out just that bit more.
Far too much romanticizing of a people who pretty much still lived in the stone age as late as the 19th century.

Echo Alpha says:
January 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm
@Phillip Bradley–
I find it odd that while you argue sequestration is a viable method of preventing fatalities and structures burning, the two exampes you give FEATURE PEOPLE REDUCING THE FUEL LOAD IN THE VICINITY OF THEIR STRUCTURES.

I wasn’t arguing sequestration. I was arguing separation, or not at your own risk.
In large part, the problem is the media which portrays heroic Aussies battling act of God bushfires or worse, fires set by evil arsonists.
If the media portrayed these people as morons who built houses in the middle of woods that are guaranteed to burn on a regular basis, without taking adequate precautions, then perhaps people would view this more realistically.
Truthseeker says:
January 20, 2013 at 1:14 pm

No one in Australia is forced to live in a house in close proximity to trees and brush. They live there because they chose to. It has become so common, we even have a word for it in Australia, ‘treechange’.

A Crooks

I think it is easy to overlook the importance that small grazing herbivores played in reducing the fuel load. I’m talking your poteroos and betongs and stuff. At the time of white settlement they were prolific but were wiped out by the introduction of cats and foxes. Fires lit by aborigines were small beer because of an already reduce fuel load.

Paul80

While agreeing with the need to reduce fuel from near property, this is only allowed to be done in the cooler months. In parts of the NSW South Coast grow ‘Spotted gums’ [Corymbia maculata, (syn. Eucalyptus maculata)], which start to shed leaves and bark as the weather warms – November – and are still doing so. Clean up one day and there is a noticeable layer a few days later. Beside roads and on other public land no one cleans up, so the fuel level grows during the summer. Other trees do the same to lesser extent and the dryer the season the more is shed.

Goldie

I might also point out that some (not all) of the bush fires in Australia are man made as yet another person was arrested over the weekend for deliberately lighting a fire. As someone who lives on the west coast it is also a regular observation that when the summer school holidays finish, the number of bush fires reduces and that’s not because of rain.
The last three property destroying fires in Western Australia all had a man made cause, though they were not deliberately lit.

Theo Goodwin

Gail Combs says:
January 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm
Very depressing. A new disaster I have to learn about. Nothing to do but face it head on. Thanks.

Look, I know it’s supposed to be about fire, and Our Green Betters have excelled themselves in this field. They have once again evolved policies to maximise waste, expense and destruction. It’s what they do.
But if we are looking for their masterpiece, I’d like to vote for those low-flush toilets, especially the really feeble ones you’re likely to encounter in new million dollar homes in the city. Firstly, you pay more for your new Green cistern, and, of course, you’re paying more for water. (Among other things, there’s a rusting de-sal plant somewhere on the coast that needs some costly care.) Secondly, you have to flush many, many times, wasting water to make that last pea go through. Lastly, because that last pea insists on floating, you have to fish it out.
Now what could be better, from a Green point of view, than the cost, waste and humiliation of such a toilet? You even get some medieval sanitation to go with your medieval wind power.
Perhaps Our Green Betters could link their fire and water policies by restricting fire-fighting techniques to hand passing of buckets. You know, for all my flippancy, i wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them haven’t thought of that.
And no cheating with big buckets!

Jeff Alberts

“Aborigines lit fires continually, so their small patchwork fires caused no permanent damage to the environment and created and maintained the healthy grasslands on which many animals and Aborigines depended.”
Is there such a thing as a fire that causes permanent damage to the environment? I can’t think of one. Sure, they look like hell right after, but in a couple of years you can’t even tell it happened.

Gail Combs

mosomoso says:
January 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm
…Perhaps Our Green Betters could link their fire and water policies by restricting fire-fighting techniques to hand passing of buckets. You know, for all my flippancy, i wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them haven’t thought of that….
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
ERRrrrr, if I recall correctly they did exactly that in the USA by grounding the firefighting (water carrying) planes in the USA.

Western wildfires – horrific, devastating … and unnecessary
New fire-fighting technology could help put them out. Why isn’t it being used?
…Duly impressed, I called the company to ask what role it was playing in fighting the Colorado blazes and why its technology apparently was not working. The answer shocked me. It had not been asked to help!
Despite all the news stories about FireIce, its certification by the USFS, and frequent communications between GelTech and federal, state and local officials – no one had contacted the company….
[and a comment]
daveburton says:
July 24, 2012 at 5:17 am
Old firefighting technology would help, too — if it was still available. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration effectively decommissioned much of it last summer, by abruptly cancelling the contract for use of the planes which were the core of the U.S. Forrest Service’s aerial firefighting capabilities, and thereby putting out of business the company that both operated those planes and produced and maintained the key firefighting subsystem used in the best of the remaining firefighting planes:
http://monkeywrenchingamerica.com/?p=1412
http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2012/07/08/new-parts-support-for-wildfire-system/ukvgabDt0PlgwsyUW17u2N/story.html

I think the Malethusians Greens really do want to kill us….

Truthseeker

Philip Bradley says:
January 20, 2013 at 2:31 pm
No one in Australia is forced to live in a house in close proximity to trees and brush. They live there because they chose to. It has become so common, we even have a word for it in Australia, ‘treechange’.
—————————————————————————————————————————
The arrogance of your approach is mind-boggling.
Most people live in rural areas because they choose to be primary producers or work in many of the support industries for primary producers. Most of those people have lived in those areas for generations. Most of those people are doing productive things with the land that allow you and me to have the things that make life comfortable. So you can take your “they do not have to live there” attitude and stick it where the sun don’t shine.
Well I hate to break it to you Philip, but I am an Australian, and my family has been in Australia for five generations, and I am not aware of any such term as “treechange”.